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The Secret Garden
Red Dress Gala 2018

by Audrey Hanes, photography by Amy Long

The Community Health Education Foundation’s most profitable and popular annual fundraiser, Red Dress Gala, will be held next month to honor those in the community who give back to Jonesboro and who are passionate about heart disease awareness and prevention in women.

“One of CHEF’s priority education areas is the awareness of women and heart disease,” said Emily Lard, the nonprofit organization’s executive director. “We became a partner in 2004 with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s ‘The Heart Truth’ campaign and have been a leader in this endeavor since. We have made progress, but although statistics have decreased in the percentage of women dying from heart disease, still heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women; the percentage is still high, with more than 432,000 American women over the age of 20 dying from heart disease each year.”

Taking on the chair positions for the 2018 Red Dress Gala are Amy Crain and Kristen McCormic, two CHEF volunteers who are determined to help make a dent in that staggering number.

McCormic, a realtor at New Door Real Estate Brokerage, is on the Red Dress Gala committee for the second year and says she loves the organization for what it does for the community she loves.

“Most people know about us because of the free health screenings we provide each year; but, that’s not all we do,” said McCormic. “The Red Dress Gala, for example, is a fundraiser for spreading the awareness of heart disease in women. We have several events throughout the year that help positively impact the health of our community. We have great sponsors that allow us to host these events so that we can raise enough funds to provide free services. 

“The Red Dress Gala is the most affordable gala to attend in our area. We have great entertainment, great food and, of course, great drinks. While the main purpose of the gala is to raise awareness and funds for heart disease, we also get to honor several people and businesses that have given so much back to our community. We try to make the gala better and better each year, and I truly believe this year will be the best yet.”

The 2018 gala will take place on Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at A-State’s Centennial Hall. The theme is “The Secret Garden,” and the committee promises a fun and exciting night with packed live and silent auctions, great food and drinks, and games. Memphis’ Groove Factor was met with rave reviews in 2017 and will be back again this year for the gala.

Crain has also been a Red Dress Gala volunteer for two years and says that one of the great joys of being involved with the annual gala is being able to meet so many different inspirational people in the community who donate their time for the benefit of others.

“The volunteers recognize the importance of community spirit, and by working together, we can achieve our goals and do amazing things for our community, especially through the Red Dress Gala, CHEF’s leading fundraiser,” said Crain.

The annual gala will honor several local individuals and companies for their dedication to community service and spreading heart disease awareness. The 2018 honorees are: Dr. Darrell Ragland, Health Advocate Honoree; Susie Gibson and Lisa Davis, Ed Way Community Service and Support Honorees; Ritter Companies, Professional Community Service and Support Honoree (More Than 50 Employees); Doctor’s Anatomic Pathology Services, Professional Community Service and Support Honoree (Less Than 50 Employees); and Joanna Clines, Red Dress Ambassador.

“The Red Dress Gala would like to bring awareness to the importance of women and heart disease, but we would like to recognize our community leaders who give from the heart back to this community,” said Lard. “We tend to focus only on the bad statistics of heart disease, but we like everyone to take a minute to enjoy all the good coming from the hearts of many through our honoree recipients.”

Dr. Darrell Ragland, Health Advocate Honoree
Ragland, a family practice physician with St. Bernards Medical Group, has been serving the Jonesboro community and educating his patients about heart disease for the past 33 years.

The 2018 Health Advocate Honoree has previously served on the AFMC board of directors, a group responsible for oversight of Medicare and Medicaid spending in the state of Arkansas, as well as the Chief of Staff at St. Bernards Regional Medical Center. He is currently serving as chairman of the board of SHARP, a company put together by physicians and St. Bernards Medical Center to provide cost effective care to patients.

Ragland says he most enjoys interacting with patients to work together to improve the future of their healthcare. It is the cooperation between the physician and the patient, which involves the patient and their healthcare, that he finds most rewarding.

“Heart disease has directly affected me in two ways: through extended family members and through my patients, I have seen heart disease have profound effects on both the physical health of the patient and the mental health of both the patient and the patient’s family due to the severe stress of this terrible disease,” said Ragland. “Knowledge of risk factors and what to do about those risk factors offer keys to lowering cardiac events and heart disease. … The simple things that women can do to prevent heart disease are to avoid any type of tobacco; moderate exercise such as walking 30 minutes three times a week; if the blood pressure or cholesterol are abnormal, consider medical treatment; and treat diabetes aggressively. Addressing risk factors can have dramatic effects on the development of heart disease.”

Ragland says it is an honor to be a 2018 Red Dress Gala honoree.

“The community of Northeast Arkansas has been so supportive of my practice, and I support the message of CHEF to improve the quality of life for the women of Northeast Arkansas,” he said.

Susie Gibson & Lisa Davis, Ed Way Community Service & Support Honorees
Davis, the manager of Enhancements Boutique, and Gibson, who originally opened the store in 1980, will be honored at the 2018 Red Dress Gala with an award that honors the late Ed Way, a man known for selflessly giving back to the community.

The women behind Enhancements are similarly dedicated to giving back to the City of Jonesboro. Gibson offers her home and grounds for day retreats and seminars on a limited basis to groups dealing with spirituality, grief and help and healing of addictions. She is also active in the Celebrate Recovery ministry at Southwest Church of Christ. Davis serves as the committee secretary for the Arkansas State University Adult Education WAGE program, which assists underemployed Arkansans by giving them basic employability and academic skills. She also does volunteer work through the Master Gardener organization by maintaining the landscapes in public areas, and she volunteers with CHEF by promoting its Women’s Health Conference and the Red Dress Gala with fashion shows and even by baking many gala cakes over the years.

As a business, Enhancements works to support many local nonprofits, as well.

“The main organization we support is the Northeast Arkansas Breast Cancer Support Group,” said Davis. “They are a grass roots organization that helps people in this community with the everyday needs of the cancer victim and their family. (We) also contribute time and money to the Phil and Flo Jones Hospice House.”

Enhancements has sponsored a luncheon and fashion show at the Jonesboro Country Club in October for the last 14 years. It has become an anticipated event that involves many in the community and is supported by more than 100 guests each year who have helped raise thousands of dollars through the show and silent auction. The boutique also supports the Phi Mu fashion show and has participated in every show since its inception; the proceeds go to the Arkansas Children’s Miracle Network.

“We think that Jonesboro is unique and well served by the Community Health Education Foundation for its work in promoting women’s heart health and related diseases,” said Gibson. “Jonesboro is a growing medical center in this tri-state area that enables CHEF to reach a large population of women. We, at Enhancements, are very happy to have supported and plan to continue being a part of this work.”

Ritter Companies, Professional Community Service and Support Honoree (More Than 50 Employees)
E. Ritter & Company, the parent company of Ritter Communications and Ritter Agribusiness, has been serving the region since 1886 and will be honored at this year’s Red Dress Gala for its community service and support.

“Throughout the 120-year history of our company, agriculture and telecommunications have changed drastically, and our company has evolved to meet the ever-growing demands of both industries,” said a representative for the company. “One thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to this region. Despite our immense growth, we remain headquartered in Northeast Arkansas, and we remain deeply committed to serving this region.”

Last year, Ritter Companies contributed to more than 160 organizations through donations and Ernest and Anna Ritter Family Endowment grants. It produces the annual St. Jude Cablethon, which raises more than $200,000 for the children’s hospital each year; it delivered grants to Arkansas State University, the St. Bernards Foundation, CityYouth and the NEA Baptist Charitable Foundation; it sponsors a number of community festivals, including Downtown Jonesboro BBQ Festival, Lepanto Terrapin Derby, Blytheville Mayfest and Marked Tree Cotton Pickin’ Jubilee; it supports the chambers of commerce in the areas it serves; and it delivers free Wi-Fi in the Downtown Jonesboro business district. Furthermore, Ritter Companies proudly support many local organizations, including Community Health Education Foundation, Foodbank of Northeast Arkansas, Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure, Miracle League, Habitat For Humanity and CASA.

“Our ‘Right by You’ pledge is a reflection of how we strive to operate in all areas of our business,” said a representative for the company. “We believe the best formula for continued growth and success is doing what is right for our customers, employees and the communities we serve. We’re proud to be a local company, and we believe we have a responsibility to make an impact in our communities.

“We are extremely honored and humbled to be recognized. Northeast Arkansas is an incredibly special place, thanks in large part to the giving spirit of so many people and organizations in the region. We’re proud to be a part of this community, and we’re honored to serve the wonderful people that make Northeast Arkansas such a great place to live, work and raise our families.”

Doctor’s Anatomic Pathology Services, Professional Community Service and Support Honoree (Less Than 50 Employees)
In addition to meeting the anatomic laboratory need of physicians in NEA and Southeast Missouri, the 36 employees and pathologists at Doctor’s Anatomic Pathology Services (DAPS) are encouraged to be good stewards of the community and to look for opportunities to help and serve others in Jonesboro, a characteristic that has earned the company the 2018 Professional Community Service and Support Award for a company with less than 50 employees.

A few of the causes and events that DAPS supports include Arkansas Children’s Hospital, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Red Cross, ASU Red Wolves Club, CHEF, Craighead County Community Foundation, Delta Symphony Orchestra, St. Bernards Foundation, The Foundation of Arts, Independence County Economic Development Foundation, Jonesboro Church Health Center, Jonesboro Unlimited, Junior Auxiliary of Jonesboro, Kiwanis Club, MS Society, NEA Baptist Charitable Foundation, Red Dress Gala, Special Olympics, St. Bernards Villa Memory Care, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Susan G. Komen, United Way of Jonesboro, United Way of Batesville, White River Health System Foundation and an annual lectureship at NYIT.

The company has been directly affected by heart disease with diagnoses of atrial fibrillation and high blood pressure among employees, one of which was discovered during CHEF’s annual Women’s Health Conference at Southwest Church of Christ, while other employees have required stents and pacemakers. A DAPS representative says the company encourages its employees to volunteer to gain a better understanding of the needs and issues that might have been overlooked in the community. It suggests a Christmas drive, a clothing drive, giving blood, participating in United Way’s Day of Caring and volunteering with Helping Neighbor’s Food Bank as ways that other local companies can help give back to the community.

Joanna Clines, Red Dress Ambassador
Clines, a real estate agent and the director of finances at Burch & Co. Real Estate, will be honored at the 2018 Red Dress Gala as the annual event’s Red Dress Ambassador, an award specifically dedicated to recognizing someone who works tirelessly to educate the community about heart disease awareness and prevention in women.

The Jonesboro native has volunteered with CHEF for eight years, has been a member of Rotary Club and Eastern Star and has volunteered with March of Dimes. She is also the treasurer and vice president of Valley View School’s PTA.

“I give back to the community to help it grow and prosper,” said Clines. “I like to think of my community as my family that I help to support.”

The 2018 Red Dress Ambassador says she has family members who have been diagnosed with heart disease, so CHEF and the Red Dress Gala are important causes for her to support.

“CHEF is wonderful and helps so many people; I am very proud to be a member of this organization,” she said. “I encourage women to help prevent heart disease by having yearly exams and to know their body to know when it changes. Also, eat a healthier diet and try to maintain a good weight.”

For more information about Community Health Education Foundation or to purchase tickets to the 2018 Red Dress Gala, visit chefjonesboro.org or call (870) 931-4044.